7 Family-Friendly Services That Make Family Travel Easier (and More Fun!)
A vacation is supposed to be a time for resting. Traveling as a family, however, is often marred by stressful incidents, especially if the kids are still very young. And yet this doesn’t need to be the case. Nowadays, there are hotels and services worldwide that cater to families of all kinds, including babies, young infants, children, teenagers and even families of five or more. Read on to find out about seven unique family-friendly services that will make your vacation a true vacation.
1. Kids clubs
As the name already says, these are clubs for kids. That is, hotels will have a specific group that kids can join to participate in activities with other children of about the same age. As a qualified hotel staff member supervises each of the groups, so the parents can rest assured that their kids are taken care of and enjoy some downtime without them.
There is no need to feel guilty that you are “dumping” your kids off; in fact, kids may prefer to spend time with peers of the same age and may even make friends that last beyond the holiday experience. In some cases, such friendships may even be an incentive to return to the same hotel or resort the next year to meet these very same friends. Parents, on the other hand, can make friends with fellow parents.
Ciao Bambino offers quite an extensive list of hotels with kids clubs, from the Bahamas to the Costa Brava to St. Moritz. For another list, check out Take the Family. In addition to doing a more specific Google search, which includes your specific destination, you can look into chains such as Club Med, the Ritz and the Four Seasons. The latter, for example, provides a complimentary “Kids For All Seasons” program for children aged 5 to 12. Check with the individual hotel to see whether the kids club is offered; it may be seasonal.
In general, note that kids clubs will not be the same in every hotel. Ciao Bambino offers a comprehensive article detailing the different types of options available. Here are some main points to look for in a kids club:
- Is it more like a babysitting service or will it involve a schedule of activities? Usually, the latter is going to keep kids a lot happier. Inquire about whether kids will be watching TV and/or playing video games. They can do this back home; no need to come all the way to the Bahamas.
- If so, are there special activities that kids can take part in which they might not be able to do back home? I myself remember painting silk scarves in Mallorca when I was younger; something that I never would have been able to do back home. Be sure to ask whether these activities require extra fees for equipment, tools, etc.
- Does the kids club have a specific space/building? This is usually a great place for kids to meet and mingle. Parents, on the other hand, can rest assured that they are less likely to get lost if they are not walking around the hotel premises.
- Is it grouped by age? Should you have several children, you may be able to ask whether they can be placed in the same group.
- Is it a flexible pick-up/drop-off schedule? Taking a vacation is all about escaping the routine. However, do understand that planning a successful program may require some more rigid meeting times. Inquire whether you can sign your kids up for half or full-day sessions.
2. All-inclusive hotels/resorts
All-Inclusive hotels or resorts are establishments where you pay a set price that includes food, dining, accommodation and just about all the activities. Prices and exactly what is included (alcoholic drinks, for example) will vary across the board, so be sure to inquire about the details that matter to you, especially with respect to family-related services. In some cases, kids under a certain age will actually pay less or nothing. Again, inquire with the specific establishment in question.
Moreover, just as kids clubs vary, so will all-inclusive resorts. Generally speaking the advantage is that kids don’t need to ask for money every time they get a drink or eat something. They can usually also sample activities, which are posted or announced every day. Most family-friendly all-inclusive resorts will have a kids club.
There are all-inclusive resorts all over the world, many of them being chains. You can look into big names, such as Club Med, RIU, or Beaches Resorts, which specifically caters to families with kids who want to relax in the Caribbean. If you can’t afford the high prices of such upscale resorts, don’t despair. About.com has quite a useful list of resorts that won’t blow the budget, including destinations in Jamaica, St. Lucia and beyond. The former even includes a water park for kids to take advantage of.
In general, here are several points to keep in mind:
- Is there a kids club (see above)?
- Are there specific services offers for infants or toddlers? Again, About.com provides a valuable list of destinations both within the US and beyond.
- What sports and activities are offered?
- What is included and what isn’t? For example, some hotels will offer free scuba sampling sessions.
- Safety. Inquire whether the hotel area is enclosed if your kids are younger and tend to get lost.
Stemming from French, crèche means day care center for babies, infants and toddlers. It can be part of an all-inclusive resort, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Again, just as kids clubs vary from hotel to hotel, so do crèches.
Babygoes2 provides quite an extensive list of hotels and which types of crèches and/or kids clubs they offer. Click here and scroll all the way down to Childcare Under 3s. The website also lists an extensive range of pros and cons both for crèches and kids clubs, so take a look at that too. In general, here are some points to consider:
- Do you need to book the crèche service in advance? Does it cost extra and if so, how much?
- What qualifications do supervisors have (First-Aid, Childcare Experience, Recommendations, Special Qualifications)?
- Does the crèche allow parents in? Sometimes, this might not be the case so the children don’t get upset.
- Is a baby listening device used?
- Are the children fed? If so, be sure to indicate any allergies.
- What is the ratio of supervisors to children?
In general, there are several ways to take advantage of a crèche on your vacation. First, it can be part of the all-inclusive hotel you are staying in. Second, it can be an additional service booked at a normal, non-all-inclusive resort. Third, you can even get a crèche attached to a private group of vacation villas. Again Babygoes2 provides a useful evaluation of the pros and cons. For the latter, you should especially book in advance since it gets popular and fills up fast. Last but not least, check agencies such as Prestige Holidays, who specialize in the availability of crèches and childcare options.
4. Babysitting services
Sometimes, all you need is an afternoon or a night to take some time off. Most hotels worldwide can arrange to find a nanny, but be sure to call before your arrival to see whether this will be an option. If not, you can find an independent service to cater to your needs.
Babygoes2, for example, offers a nanny and babysitting services which provides visitors with fully-trained English-speaking nannies at locations all over Mallorca. Clothed in uniform, the nannies comes to your hotel or villa at the agreed time and cost around £5 per hour (ca. $8). You can supplement that with strollers (basic model from £2.40 or $4 per day), travel cots (about £17 or $28 per week), car seats (birth to 4 years from £4.80 or $8 per day), and high chairs. They can even arrange diaper delivery, to arrive at the resort on day of your arrival (infant size 4-8kg around £13 or $21 per 100). That’s just about every possible hassle taken care of.
5. Traveling nannies
Wealthy families have long brought along their very personal nanny which they normally also have back home. Now, however, you can book a nanny just to come along on vacation.
Travelling Nanny, for example, offers three different traveling nanny types, from Student Nannies to Teacher Nannies (including swimming instructors and sports coaches), as well as Qualified Nannies. If you are going on vacation with another family, you can also opt to share a holiday nanny. All nannies are interviewed personally, and must meet the following requirements: 19 years or older, fluent in English, current enhanced CRB check, at least 1 years childcare experience with references, First Aid experience/qualification, valid passport/work permits/visas. Plus a genuine love of children, of course. Qualifications such as skiing/snowboarding/swimming skills can also be requested. You can use the online price calculator for a cost estimate. A student nanny working 8 hours per day, with an additional 10 hours of babysitting per week, comes out to £380 (ca. $620) per week.
All in all, when you look for a nanny to travel with your family, see whether it might be possible to meet her (or him) beforehand. Getting to know the person you will be taking along on your travels is essential not only for you as parents, but also for your children. If you cannot meet in person, at least have several phone call conversations that include your children. Introduce the nanny as a new friend that will be coming along. Also, be sure to discuss whom the nanny will be sharing a room with, if applicable.
6. Family travel packages
There are numerous travel agencies that cater specifically to families, and they can usually put together a combination of the above services. This will take away some of the hassle that is involved when planning a vacation, and they may be able to get discounts because this is a job they do all the time. On the other hand, you will also have to pay for their services. So in the end, you will have to see whether you want to pay for that extra service.
It never costs to make an inquiry, however. To get started, you can look online at websites such as Expert Family Travel, Family Travel Gurus, and Take the Family. The latter specializes in the UK while the former two offer options for U.S. based families. In general, you can also consult Ciao Bambino, which is more of a resource than an agency, for tips. For each, inquire about special offers. Take the Family, for example, is offering 30% off a stay at Club Med (specific restrictions apply). Be sure to indicate the exact age of your kids, your budget, and what kind of holiday you want (sports-based, cultural visits, etc).
7. “Family of Five, Six, Seven or Eight” hotels/resorts
Usually hotels and resorts cater to families of four or less. Rooms, in particular, are not frequently equipped to house more than that. However, in recent times, a niche market has developed with respect to larger families. There are specific hotels that cater directly to families with five, six, seven, eight or more.
Six Suitcase Travel, for example, caters specifically to large numbered families (despite the name “six,” it does have options for seven, eight or even more. Sleeps Five, on the other hand, specializes in accommodation for large families in Europe.
Vacation Kids has an extensive list of destinations and hotels that offer specials for large families. With options in the Caribbean, Europe, Mexico and the U.S. to choose from, there really shouldn’t be any more reason not to enjoy your holiday with a numerous family. The destinations are marked with whether they are all-inclusive or if they don’t include meals. There is even a list of cruises that caters specifically to accommodating five or more.
“Normally booking two rooms does not mean they will connect, adjoin or even be close to one another. You can REQUEST that the rooms be adjoining on your reservation but it is not a guarantee. It is totally up to the availability and discretion of the hotel when you arrive.
Hoteliers are beginning to wise up and offer guaranteed adjoining rooms as a separate paid category. Just like paying for an upgrade to say a honeymoon suite or ocean front room, now parents can pay to be guaranteed a room right next to their children. Most often, guaranteed adjoining means a king bed and bath for mom and dad that connects to a room with two double beds and a bath for the kids. These rooms offer more space and of course privacy with a separate room for parents. Guaranteed adjoining rooms usually will allow for more “adults” over the age of 12 to stay together. This can help keep families together when traveling with teens in tow. In most cases guaranteed adjoining rooms will accommodate a family of six!”
Read more about family travel:
- Why It’s Not Selfish for Parents to Travel with Young Children
- Hosteling with Kids: Benefits and Tips
- How to Develop Character in Your Children and Yourself Through Travel
- 6 Ways that Traveling with Kids Can Actually Improve Your Travel Experience
- 7 Steps to Planning and Surviving Multigenerational Travel